Born in a barn in 1909, Leo Fender seems an unlikely father of rock ’n’ roll. But as the man whose company perfected the solid-body electric guitar, his contribution to contemporary music cannot be overstated. Just take a look at the albums whose musicians thought enough of their Fender guitar to put it on the cover: Eric Clapton’s "Layla," Bruce Springsteen’s "Born To Run," Jeff Beck’s "Wired," The Pretenders’s (Chrissie Hynde) "Get Close," Bonnie Raitt’s "Nick of Time." The list of influential artists who play a Fender is just about endless.

Fender’s first solid-body electric guitar was introduced in 1950. It debuted as the one-pickup Esquire before the name of the two-pickup model was changed to Broadcaster. But Gretsch was already using the name Broadkaster on some of its instruments, so the name was changed again.

Between names, the company made the most of its remaining Fender Broadcaster decals by cutting off the word Broadcaster so that only the Fender brand made it onto the guitar’s headstock. Today, collectors call these guitars Nocasters. Only about 60 Nocasters were made, which makes them extremely collectible, but by April of 1951 the guitar would finally get a name that would stick, the Telecaster.

The Stratocaster came next in 1954. Unlike the Telecaster, whose ash body was outlined with rib-digging 45-degree edges, the Strat had a sculpted body that fit players like a glove. Three pickups gave the instrument unprecedented tonal range, as did a vibrato bar that would bend the guitar’s strings when pressed. And instead of the Telecaster’s blond, natural-wood finish, the Strat was offered in a number of colors, including the iconic sunburst (golden-yellow in the middle fading to black on the outside).

Solid-body electric bass guitars were also a Fender innovation. The Precision bass was introduced in 1951. It had a headstock that was virtually identical to that of the Telecaster and a body that turned out to be a preview of the 1954 Strat. By 1957, the Precision’s headstock had been redesigned to mirror the Stratocaster’s, and that version of the bass remains largely unchanged today. The Jazz Bass was added to the low-octave lineup in 1960, and a six-string bass was offered in 1961.

Fender launched two other major guitar lines in the 1950s. The first of these was a pair of low-cost models, the Duo-Sonic and the Musicmaster, both of which were introduced in 1956. These guitars were for kids who wanted to learn how to play without having to shell out the big bucks for a Stratocaster ($274.50 for a Strat versus $119.50 for a Musicmaster). The other initiative was a high-end guitar called the Jazzmaster, which retailed at the time for $329.50. It had a rosewood fingerboard on the standard maple neck, and switches that let the guitarist bounce between rhythm and lead sounds.

In 1962, Fender introduced the Jaguar, which combined a Jazzmaster body with a Stratocaster head. The Mustang, an update of the Duo-Sonic, was added in 1964. Years later, Nirvana...

But the 1960s are best known as the decade when Jimi Hendrix did things to his Stratocaster that nobody had thought possible, from setting it on fire to playing wailing, psychedelic versions of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Alas for Fender, it was also the decade that the company was sold to CBS—for Fender purists, the years 1965 to 1985 are like a 20-year musical drought.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vintage Guitars Info

Vintage Guitars Info

This great reference site features detailed sections on vintage guitar makers, including Gibson, Fender, Martin, Gr… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Want to see all the old brochures and ads for your favorite vintage axe? Check out this great site, which showcases… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage 1956 Fender Esquire (telecaster) + Ohsc - No Reserve!2008-2009 Fender Telecaster Made In MexicoFender American Standard StratocasterFender Standard Telecaster Electric GuitarUsed Fender Custom Shop Limited '50s Stratocaster Relic Rosewood Neck Aztec GoldTele Telecaster Guitar Neck Musikraft Fender Licensed Riftsawn Flame MapleFender American Standard American Stratocaster Electric Guitar1983 Fender Japan Squier Stratocaster St57 Jv-serial Black !!Fender American Deluxe StratocasterFender 52' Re-issue "hot Rod" Telecaster Tele Telecaster Guitar Neck Musikraft Fender Licensed Riftsawn Flame Maple1996 Fender American Standard Stratocaster Electric GuitarFender Deluxe Player's StratocasterFender 2000-2001 Mim Stratocaster 6 String Electric Guitar Fender Jazzmaster Jm66g Made In Japan Mij1989 American Fender Stratocaster Plus Deluxe UsaFender American Stratocaster Standard 1996Fender Stratocaster Usa Lefty No Reserve Fender Blues Junior™ Iii 15w Limited Edition Amplifier - No ReserveFender Stratocaster MimRare 2006 Fender Custom Shop Limited Edition Vintage Hb Telecaster Relic Fender Japan 52 Telecaster (tl52) - Mint Condition!1984-1987 Fender Stratocaster "e" Series Made In Japan! No Reserve!!!!!Fender Active Deluxe Precision BassFender 1960's Deluxe Guitar Amplifier Model 6g3Fender Telecaster American Standard Electric GuitarUsed Fender Custom Shop Limited '57 Stratocaster Heavy Relic Fiesta Red PaisleyFender Blacktop TelecasterClassic Fender Mustang Short Scale BassGreat Find 1957 Fender GuitarFender Telecaster NeckFender Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Bass Guitar Special 3-color Sunburst As-isFender Standard Jazz Bass Guitar W/ Case - Free Shipping!! No Reserve!! #a6022007 Fender Highway One Jazz Bass Made In Usa, Upgraded PickupsFender Stratocaster Standard Electric Guitar Made In Mexico Mim With Soft CaseFender Telecaster Maple Neck 21 Vintage Frets 7.25" Radius TeleFender American Deluxe Jazz BassFender Blues JrFender 2013 American Deluxe Stratocaster Loaded BodyFender Classic Player Baja Telecaster Electric GuitarFender Standard Precision Electric Bass Guitar2011 Genuine Fender Loaded Stratocaster Body Hss Sunburst ExcellentFender Telecaster Special Edition 6 String Made In MexicoFender Jazzmaster, Japanese, Japan, Left Handed, Lefthanded, 1994-1995Fender Mustang Offset Body Vintage White Bass 4 String Electric GuitarFender Stratocaster Xii - 12 String - Crafted In Japan - Case IncludedFender Vintage Modified Jazzmaster Guitar Body2014 Fender Usa American Standard Telecaster Hh Sunburst Rosewood No ReserveFender Japan Stratocaster St-62 Birds Eye Maple Neck !!Fender Standard Stratocaster White 2008-2009 Made In Mexico Hardshell CaseFender 50th Ann Stratocaster Guitar Neck With Blemishes MimFender Stratocaster Tons Of Upgrades!1995-1996 Fender Jazz Bass Made In Mexico Mim Mexican Fender American Standard Precision Bass 3-tone Sunburst Lefty Left Handed1994 Fender Mim Telecaster Standard Electric Guitar Antique White Vintage Relic1988 Fender Usa Strat Plus Alder Body 80's American Stratocaster Electric GuitarFender Super Champ X2 With Jensen SpeakerFender Squier Telecaster Custom Black Crafted In Indonesia1950's Fender Precesion Bass GuitarFender Usa 2013 Telecaster Electric Guitar With Case